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News | 08.03.2021

10 Countries Where You Wouldn’t Want To Get Caught With Weed

You thought Alabama was tough? Yikes.

Over the last decade, the laws all over the world have been varying tremendously. Some have become more lenient, while the rest remain in the shadows of doubt.

While international recognition of cannabis’s medical value has been changing drug laws and public opinion around the world, many of these listed remain stoic in their stance without a glimmer of future change.


Photo courtesy of Accenture

Singapore may well be the worst place in the world for a pothead. Zero domestic supply, with the exception of what might come off some rando’s closet crop, it’s all compressed shrubbery from either Thailand or Indonesia smuggled at great risk into the country — which also makes it absurdly expensive.

The country’s drug laws are among the world’s strictest, along with Saudi Arabia and Iran, which include the death penalty for import.

Cannabis in Singapore is illegal. Possession or consumption can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison, with a possible fine of $20,000 along with other amendments under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Trafficking, import, or export of more than 500 grams may result in the death penalty. Considering the legality here, one would assume a single nug will get you arrest. 

Cannabis was probably first brought to Singapore by Indian laborers during its years as a British colony and has been prohibited by law since 1870. Ironically, as a British port of trade, one of Singapore’s most important products was opium, which laborers in all of its colonies were encouraged to smoke.

United Arab Emirates

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Cannabis possession is illegal under UAE Law No 14 of 1995 and its amendments. The Anti-Narcotic Psychotropic Substances Law states that it should not be “brought, imported, exported, made, extracted, separated, produced, possessed or taken, and all other activities and connections thereof may not be performed”.

If the amount of cannabis is significant, it can be surmised that it is not for personal use but for selling which calls for greater punishment. 

Article No 46 of the Anti-Narcotic Psychotropic Substances Law says that “the penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than 10 years and not more than 15 years and a fine of not less than Dh20,000 shall be imposed on any person who has managed, prepared or set up a place for the abuse of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances”.

To make matters harsher, if you’re a visitor,  it is very likely that this kind of sentence will include deportation as well.


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Unlike some EU countries, Turkey has a rather strict drug policy, where even illegal drug possession, including cannabis, is considered a punishable offense. In Turkey, almost all drugs are considered illegal and there is no legislation that allows the medical use of any non-pharmaceutical drugs.

The main legislation and the provisions concerning illegal drugs are set forth at the Turkish Penal Code No. 5237.  (TPC), and although the law does make a distinction between drug trafficking (Art. 188), enabling the sales of drugs (Art. 190), and drug possession for personal use (Art. 191), all three are considered as acts of crime and are deemed as punishable offenses.

According to subparagraph 1 of Article 191, anyone who purchases, accepts, or possesses illegal drugs for personal use shall be sentenced to prison 2-5 minimum.

It is important to note here that this provision is also applicable for possession of marijuana or other similar plant-based drugs. So at least they treat all plants equally.

Saudi Arabia

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The use and possession of cannabis are strictly illegal in Saudi Arabia. Personal use and/or possession of any kind of recreational drugs is most of the time punishable by imprisonment if caught.

For foreign citizens, there would generally be more leniency. The use and possession of cannabis are illegal in Saudi Arabia. For Saudi citizens, there is supposedly some leniency.

Saudi Arabia’s approach to drugs is based on a strict interpretation of Sharia law, meaning that drug offenses are considered to be a crime against God. As cited verse 5:33 of the Quran “[those] who make war upon Allah and his messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be […] killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land”.

Take into consideration, the laws against a medical plant were created to execute human life as they may be seen as an offense to their God.

El Salvador

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The possession and use of cannabis are illegal in El Salvador for both recreational and medical purposes. The country is a signatory of the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and has criminalized the production and distribution of the drug.

The legalization of marijuana to religious people is something else altogether. Many religious individuals believe that making it legal is an immoral thing to do.

As of recently, there has been minimal discussion to change the law. There is no question that cannabis for medicinal purposes can help individuals with some health conditions.

Experts believe that the use of cannabis can help them manage the effects of medicine and the disease itself. Marijuana for recreational purposes is an entirely different issue; it is more a matter of wanting rather than needing.


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Malaysian cannabis laws are also among the toughest in the world. Prison sentences and fines are common if you’re found in possession of cannabis, and until recently, the death sentence was in place for cannabis traffickers.

However, in 2018, the Malaysian government discussed the possibility of legalizing it for medical purposes in the future. Cannabis is still under Schedule 1 of the Dangerous Drug Act 1952 in Malaysia. Getting stuck in this category means it does not have any medical benefits, which we all know is not the truth. 

Cannabis was also used openly until about 1985, following President Nixon, former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir waged a war on drugs. Even growing a single cannabis plant in your home can result in a life prison sentence. 

However, while personal use is still a criminal offense, the Malaysian government has been openly exploring the option of reintroducing industrial hemp production into the country.

Plot twist, CBD is also illegal in Malaysia.


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The use of cannabis is punishable by up to four years in prison in Indonesia. The illegal possession of marijuana is punishable by a maximum of 12 years in prison and a maximum of eight billion rupiahs ($563,000) in fines. 

Producing, exporting, importing, or distributing marijuana can result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a 10 billion rupiah fine. Those found guilty of being involved in the “marijuana trade” can face life sentences and a 10 billion rupiah fine.

The UN commission on narcotic drugs followed the World Health Organisation’s recommendation from 2019 to remove medical cannabis from the list of the world’s most dangerous, highly addictive drugs. Considering it also the least of those, it’s a step in the right direction.

The move is expected to facilitate scientific research into the drug’s medicinal and therapeutic potential, although non-medical and non-scientific uses remain illegal, of course. According to the UN, more than 50 countries have adopted medicinal cannabis programs, which means there are about 145 countries that probably will never change.


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Under RA 9165, cannabis is listed as a dangerous drug; and the sale, possession, use, importation, manufacturing, cultivation, among others, of which are prohibited and punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Section three “embraces every kind, class, genus, or species of the plant Cannabis sativa L. including, but not limited to, Cannabis Americana, hashish, bhang, Gaza, churrus and ganja, and embraces every kind, class, and character of marijuana, whether dried or fresh and flowering, flowering or fruiting tops, or any part or portion of the plant and seeds thereof, and all its geographic varieties, whether as a reefer, resin, extract, tincture or in any form whatsoever”.

With descriptions this clear is is easy to see that the legality of cannabis in the Philippines is not going to waiver any time soon. However, with minor amendments rendered in section 23 of RA 9165 (which prohibited plea-bargaining), the accused may now plead to a lesser offense and be subject to lower penalties.

So now getting caught would be as dramatic as before, but there is still not much discussion on lessening the punishment for cannabis positions.


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Brunei has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Cannabis in Brunei is illegal and can be punishable by caning (a.k.a corporal punishment) or the death penalty. Brunei Darussalam’s legislation is controlled by its sultan and is based on the country’s Sharia-Islamic beliefs.

Even unknowingly, if you violate Brunei laws you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Brunei are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, and, possibly, death.

Under the current law, possession of heroin, ecstasy, and morphine derivatives of more than 15 grams, cocaine of more than 30 grams, cannabis of more than 500 grams, Syabu (Methamphetamine) of more than 50 grams, or opium of more than 1.2 kg., carries the death penalty.

Possession of lesser amounts can result in a minimum twenty-year jail term and caning (or, a harsh spanking). So the two options here are death and/or caning? Some seriously twisted sh*t right there.


Photo courtesy of Lucio Maurizi / Live Japan

Since the Cannabis Control Act in 1948, it became illegal to possess marijuana in Japan. The law was introduced by the U.S. when it occupied Japan after WWII, without any significant changes since. Before introducing the Cannabis Control Act, the hemp plant grew prolifically in Japan, and the country experienced no problems with abuse, leave it to America to ruin things for everyone.

Use and possession are punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine. Cultivation, sale, and transport are punishable by up to 7 to 10 years imprisonment and a fine. So really not as bad as Malaysia or Brunei. One of the biggest deterrents is the risk of being stigmatized.

Social punishment is not uncommon, and people can be excluded from educational institutions and even lose their jobs because of possession or use.


Now that some countries are opening back up it is extremely important to understand and respect the laws of those countries. It is all too easy to get arrested and/or murdered because you wanted a joint. As infuriating as it may be, and it is, the cannabis plant is, for most people, will be considered as bad, if not worse than chemically man-made drugs such as heroin or LSD. 

Last time I went outside I didn’t see any heroin trees or LSD bushes. Maybe one day the laws around the world will be changing for the better, but until then, be mindful and respectful of other countries, their laws, and most importantly, their culture.

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